OK, this is a drunken post. Apologies in advance.
First, there's a couple new TV programs that I've really enjoyed lately.
1. Bang Goes The Theory
Great program! It's like Mythbusters, but somehow cooler. This week they built a "vortex" gun that essentially sends high powered smoke-rings (powerful enough to knock down a pile of bricks from 30 meters away!)
2. Inside Natures Giants
So far, they've dissected:
It's fascinating, and well done, not insulting your intelligence, but really explaining how their bodies work and explaining things in the context of how they might have evolved.
3. I've come to the conclusion that our biggest problem still remains that we do not share a collective vision of our future.
In fact, it's worse: we block the future out of our thoughts. People don't even think about the world as it will be 1000 years from now.
A profound pessimism has set in.
I have a theory on why this is.
We are constantly being reminded that the future is going to be awful. Day after day we are inundated with stories telling us that the future is going to be terrible, "unless we do X". The proponents of these news stories say all of this to try to induce the general population towards doing "X".
But, this doesn't work.
Their motives are probably sincere - but the effect is anything but what they want. The problem is, everybody realises that they themselves cannot personally change the outcome. Everybody collectively goes through the thought process "anything I might personally do is not going to change anything, and in fact will make me, personally, worse off, unless everyone else also changes their behaviour". A classic "Nash Equilibrium".
Faced with this situation, most people choose a form of irrationality. Subsconciously, think go "If I know that I can't affect things, there's no point being unhappy about it. Better to absolve myself of guilt too then and just deny that the calamity will even happen". Or worse, they'll suspend rationality by thinking that merely performing some sort of penance like turning the TV off instead of letting it go to standby will make a significant difference.
We're still a very young society, with only the most primitive ways of organizing collective action. We're woefully inept at organizing our collective behaviour in the ways that actually accomplish what everyone wants. It must be so frustrating, as an environmental activist, to advertise so widely about the problems we all face and yet see George Bush elected in office twice.
For me, the big picture, the really really big picture, is profoundly optimistic. We've evolved, through billions of years, to where we are now. Life, in some form or another, will go on, no matter what we do. As capable as we are of self destruction, we are still not actually capable of destroying life on earth - only our own civilisation and our own way of life, and only then if we trully fuck things up.
The future exists, and we are most probably still in it.
Well... I wrote a bunch of things after this but realised that I don't really have any answers other than a vague concept that if we could just communicate the awesome facts we already know about our existence to every living person on Earth, this might help build a sense of shared identity and purpose, which is what is required for collective action such as this...
In fact, that's another interesting point, which is that we're brought up to believe that the people in charge have some better idea about what we should be doing than we do ourselves but of course in reality we will always be, metaphorically, the blind leading the blind.
But I digress... Time for bed!